Monthly Archives: November 2011

World of adoption

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I mentioned before that prior to embarking on our adoption adventure, I didn’t have any connection to adoption. However, once we started the process, that changed. As we shared our desire to adopt with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, we discovered that many of them were connected to adoption in some way. I suppose there’s no reason to mention a connection to adoption outside of a conversation about adoption, but I’ve been continually surprised to learn that people I have known for a while were adopted themselves, have adopted siblings, or know someone who was adopted. We’re eager to talk further with these people about their experiences and get their advice about raising Teddy. In fact, one friend promised to put us in touch with a middle-aged black man who was raised by white parents. We’re especially keen for that perspective.

It’s also been interesting to hear stories from complete strangers. We were waiting for our flight to Las Vegas recently, and a fellow passenger, a gentleman in his 50s, saw me feeding Teddy. After asking Teddy’s age, he volunteered that he was also adopted. He asked about Teddy’s health, and I explained that, while we knew Teddy was healthy at birth, we knew next to nothing about his birth family’s health. The man noted that the lack of such medical information had proven to be an issue for him in middle age, especially given his recent colonoscopy. At which point I wondered if people are inspired to share a bit too much when they meet another adoptive family 😉

On that same flight, as we were preparing to depart the plane, a grandmotherly looking lady asked if Teddy was adopted and then shared that she has an adopted  Jamaican grandbaby.

I’ve been encouraged to hear their stories. They reassure me that we’ve adopted a child in a world that’s open and welcoming of such family situations.

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Parenthood at six weeks

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We didn’t get Teddy until he was six weeks old. He was born in Maryland, and by Maryland law, once a birth mother has given birth and relinquished her child for adoption, she has a 30-day revocation period, during which she can choose to parent. (Revocation periods vary from state to state. Louisiana’s is six months; Utah doesn’t have one at all — once a mother relinquishes her child, it’s a done deal.) With our agency, because 50% of birth mothers do choose to parent, the babies go into interim foster care to shield adoptive families from the unnecessary stress of caring for a child for a month only to have the adoption fall through.

It is odd having a baby join the family when he’s already six weeks old. For example, we know he’s growing (he’s already outgrown 0-3 onesies) but we don’t have any context for how quickly he’s growing. (Although, two weeks in, we’re gaining context!)

But there are several neat things about getting a baby who’s a few weeks along the developmental path. For one thing, he was already alert when he came to us. We skipped the mostly stationary stage. When he’s well fed and rested, he’s a smiling, dimpled bundle of energy who loves to stand on Daddy’s lap and do leg presses or lay on Daddy’s chest and crawl up. He’s also super social, although that’s a combination of development and personality. He loves being handed around to people–which is a good thing because a lot of people want to hold him =) We also skipped most of the wobbly-neck stage–which made me feel better about his tummy-sleeping preference.

Thanks to a super foster mom, Teddy came to us already on a soft feeding schedule, which made learning what his cries meant that much easier. It also meant I’m not quite as sleep deprived as most new moms. And the first night we had him, we had a resource to call on, someone who had actually cared for him, to ask how best to get him to go to sleep. The foster mom also helped us out by trying different kinds of formula to see if Teddy noticed a difference, saving us that hassle.

Being Teddy’s parents is an amazing blessing. Starting the process with fewer  unknowns and a few kinks worked out is even better.

Fingerprints of God

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We may not have intended to write adoption into our story, but it’s been so cool to see how God was weaving preparatory details into our narrative, in the weeks leading up to our Gotcha Day and the days following. A few examples:

  1. We picked Teddy up during National Adoption Week, which is part of National Adoption Month.
  2. A friend makes blankets for the babies of her friends. She had several she should have been working on in the weeks before we got the call, but during a weekend away with us in October, she was knitting a new blanket with some yarn she had just purchased — red, white, and blue yarn. She wasn’t sure whom she was knitting it for. Turns out, a patriotic blanket is perfect for a little boy named Teddy.
  3. My parents (who don’t get out to the East Coast very often) were in town the day we got the news, so we were able to tell them in person. They had just returned from a cruise out of Baltimore,where Teddy was born.
  4. I had a random urge to “nest” a few weeks before our Gotcha Day.
  5. Several weeks before, we had signed up to run the Anything Is Possible 5k the day before our Gotcha Day. It’s named because the race starts at 1:50 am the morning we fall back from Daylight Saving Time, so runners finish before they started. But it took on a special meaning that day =)
  6. That same Sunday, our friend who founded the adoption advocacy nonprofit New Rhythm Project performed his fundraising album’s title track, Rescue Me, at our church service. Afterward, our pastor interviewed our friend about his work and what the church can do to help. Our friend shared our news, and our pastor took an offering for us–which will be a big help with coming needs.
  7. A new friend who has a passion for adoption offered to take pictures of the three of us free of charge on Saturday, which was National Adoption Day.

And in general, the outpouring of love and support from friends, acquaintances, and colleagues has been overwhelming. We’re so excited about this new chapter in our lives!

…but the Lord determines his steps.

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In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. ~Proverbs 16:9

Adoption was not originally part of the plan. I never had any connection to adoption when I was growing up. To my knowledge, I never knew anyone who was adopted, or had adopted, or was part of an adoptive family. I never heard stories about adoption that made me vow to one day adopt. The willingness to adopt was not part of my litmus test for the man I married. Let’s be clear: Adoption was never on my radar.

But after galavanting around Europe for a few years, when Mike and I decided it was time to complicate our lives, things didn’t happen the way they were supposed to. And eventually, we realized adoption was our only option for building our family.

So began the paperwork: filling out financial forms, obtaining clearances, getting clean bills of health from our doctors, asking close friends to write recommendations. It took us about four months to get it all together. And that was just for the initial application. Then a social worker interviewed us, asking us questions about our family life and the homes we came from. Once we were approved to be parents by the states of Maryland and Virginia and the District of Columbia, we had to put together a photo album of our lives, in the hopes that a birth mother would look at the pictures we’d chosen and deem us worthy of parenting her child. I felt for the birth mothers in that situation. How do you possibly make that choice?  What do you look for as you’re deciding who’s going to raise your precious baby? We were told birth mothers made the choice based on anything from the logical (lifestyle portrayed in the pictures, for example) to the random (the wallpaper in a picture was the same as the wallpaper of her childhood room). In addition to the photo album, we had to write a letter to the birth mother, describing ourselves, however we wanted. I, the writer in the family, was clueless how to even begin. Mike had a vision and one evening whipped out a few paragraphs. They were good. And funny. But then, Mike’s funny guy. He was hoping to write something that would make a birth mother smile. In the midst of a traumatic, emotionally charged situation, he figured a letter that made her chuckle would stand out. (Turns out, neither piece was necessary; the birth mother simply requested her child be placed with the longest waiting family.)

With those two pieces as finished as they were going to be, we let go and let God. It was now out of our hands. All we could do was wait to be chosen. We did a bit of outreach ourselves–telling everyone we knew and adding a marketing email signature–but we left most of the heavy lifting to our agency. We were paying them, after all.

The wait felt like an eternity. In hindsight, four-and-a-half months was not that long. And of course, as we hold Teddy now, that wait and the journey were totally worth every moment. Looking at our baby’s precious smile and sweet, sweet dimples, we wouldn’t have our story written any other way.

Officially smitten

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One week in and we’re in love. We have never had more fun getting to know someone–except maybe each other 😉 A few highlights:

Day 1: We left the agency unable to quite believe we were allowed to leave with a baby! We drove Teddy to our friends’ house in Maryland, where we were staying while we received approval to bring Teddy to DC, since he was born in Maryland. Just inside the door was a posterboard sign congratulating us on our “Gotcha” day =) And in our room were waiting several clothing items for Teddy. We have awesome friends! The first night as we attempted to put Teddy down for his first night with us, we made a desperate call to his foster mom, who had six weeks of knowledge about him. She walked us through it, overjoyed to be able to help out. I assured her I would undoubtedly be calling again. Little did I know I wouldn’t need to.

Day 2: Our first full day together! We did what all new parents do: fed him, put him down for naps, and exclaimed to each other over every detail we discovered. We did our best to encourage his dimples. Alas, while he is a chill baby, he’s stingy with them–which is probably just as well. If he dimpled all the time, we’d get even less done around the house than we do now.

Day 3: We got the other call from our social worker, the one telling us we were clear to take Teddy home. It happened faster than anyone expected. We actually decided to stay in Maryland that night, partly because it was already late in the afternoon, but mostly because other amazing friends were painting our nursery for us while we were away. We definitely didn’t want to get in the way of that project.

Day 4: After a morning packing (we couldn’t believe we could fill an SUV with Teddy’s stuff), we hit the road for DC, with a pit stop at our agency to pick up some final paperwork. The social workers gathered around to ooh and ahh and congratulated us on surviving our first three days as a family. We also stopped off at a recommended bbq restaurant for the first of what we hope is many outings with Teddy. It was delicious. Bonus: Old Dominion root beer on tap! We’d been home a couple hours when our pastor and his wife came by to say hello. They were so excited to meet Teddy! And they blessed us with an offering taken on Sunday for us! We have been so overwhelmed with the generosity of family and friends! Then, later that evening, we took Teddy with us to our small group. We had so much fun introducing him to people who have been praying for us and encouraging us for so long. We’re hoping to take him every week, but we’ll see how that goes.

Day 5: After a lovely holiday Friday together, we went to Nando’s! Had to introduce Teddy to a Chinatown favorite. Although, navigating the popular restaurant with a stroller proved trickier than we anticipated. And then we were assigned a two-top, which didn’t exactly fit with our plan to sit Teddy in his carrier on the table. Fortunately, a four-top opened up before our food was served, so all was well.

Day 6: We went to the ONE seminar organized by the friends we stayed with in Maryland. They founded a nonprofit called New Rhythm Project that is committed to raising awareness about adoption and encourage the Church to do its part in caring for orphans. Teddy got a shout-out! Then we drove to another friend’s home to pick up some baby clothes, including a darling snow suit. Snowpocalypse 2.0, we’re ready!

Day 7: The last day of the holiday weekend was low-key. We had friends over to meet Teddy and enjoyed their homemade soup and homemade bread. Delicious. Nothing like a meal with friends.

Gotcha Day

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Friday, I was overwhelmed, excited, and terrified. Monday, I was so keyed up I couldn’t think straight. We had arranged to meet our social worker at the adoption agency at 2:30. In the morning, we actually had quite a bit to do because we were packing for a few days in Maryland. We’re approved to be adoptive parents in DC, but the baby (whom we’d already decided to name Teddy) was born in Maryland, so once we picked him up, we had to stay in Maryland until Maryland officials agreed we were fit to be parents. We were told this could take up to two weeks. We are blessed to have awesome friends who are huge adoption advocates who were happy to have the three of us stay with them until all that got sorted out. So we spent the morning tidying our condo and packing. We arrived at the agency and started the paperwork. Teddy’s foster mom wasn’t due to arrive until 3, and we had a mountain of documents to sign. We agreed we’d be foster parents for six months, as required by the state of Maryland, before the adoption would be finalized. We promised not to use corporal punishment on this child. We promised not to take the child out of the state without notifying the agency. We promised to stay in Maryland until we were approved to return home. We skimmed each document to be sure we knew what we were signing.

And then we heard a cry. My heart started beating about 14 times faster. Teddy was here! And our social worker was a meanie — she wouldn’t let his foster mom come in until all papers were signed. And suddenly we didn’t really care what we were signing. Our signatures got a lot messier. We passed the papers back and forth a lot faster. We prayed we were almost finished.

And then we were done, and our social worker left to get the foster mom.

That was the longest two minutes of my life. I wiped my hands on my jeans 40 times. I looked at Mike in panic and wonder and excitement. I stared at the door. And then the foster mom walked in with Teddy and her own three children. She handed Teddy to me, and I fumbled a bit and the waterworks started. With that handoff, I became a mama. I stared into Teddy’s big brown eyes and couldn’t believe our good fortune. He was absolutely perfect. The foster family watched as Mike and I took turns crying and oohing and ahing. And Teddy probably wondered what on earth was going on. The foster mom talked to us, trying to tell us about Teddy’s quirks and habits and feeding and sleeping. But she might have been Charlie Brown’s teacher for all I got out of it. Time stopped as I held my son for the first time.

And then we were putting him in his brand new car seat for the first time and carrying him out to our borrowed car. (We really do have amazing friends.) And that evening, we started learning how to be parents.

We Got the Call!

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One week ago today, we were wandering around a tot swap for the first time, rifling through piles of receiving blankets, inspecting bottle warmers, exclaiming over diaper genies, and avoiding the aisles and aisles of baby and toddler clothes. One week ago today, we were learning how to snap in and snap out baby carriers to and from strollers and fold up said strollers one-handed. One week ago today, we were staring in awe at the shelf space devoted to diaper bags. One week ago today, we were calling a woman we’d never met to doublecheck what formula we should buy. Why? Because two days prior to that, our social worker called to tell us we had a baby boy to take home.

They say you can never be fully prepared for that call. And they’re right. We’d been told many times exactly how it would all go down. We’d get a call on a Thursday or Friday and by Monday, we’d be parents. We knew that’s how it would happen. And then the call came. And it all started happening. And it was completely surreal. The funny part was, we had been complaining only days before about how long the process was taking. We’d been waiting four-and-a-half months! Were we ever going to be parents?!

The even funnier part was we both went to work the next day. After all, we weren’t picking up our son until Monday. We figured we’d just be sitting home twiddling our fingers all day if we didn’t go in. Yeah. That was the most unproductive day of work ever. I had so many things to do…and couldn’t focus on any of them. I had a registry to put together. I had a pediatrician to call. I had a blog post to edit and an e-newsletter story to write. I had friends to call and colleagues to tell. I had a lot to do! I was overwhelmed and excited and terrified. And completely useless. I had finally decided I’d go home early, and then I realized I really did have a few things I needed to tie up since I wasn’t going to be at work for a while.

That Friday night, we went to a concert. Because that’s what DINKs do the last Friday night of DINKdom, right?

And then the next day, we started shopping. I had a short list of the basics we had to have for the first week, thanks to input from colleagues and friends. We made decisions in a few hours that many parents research for weeks. By the end of the day, we didn’t have much (disappointing little, in fact, given that we’d been shopping for six hours), but we had enough. We knew we could take our baby home.